Pink Turk’s Cap Experiment Update

by Carolyn Henderson

Success with growing Pink Turk’s Caps from seed is looking more possible every day. I now have seven growing from seeds that wintered in the refrigerator. Then I was surprised to find that the one whole seed pod I planted in the ground last November had come up. I had flagged the site, so I could remember exactly where I put it. 

So, they will come up from a baby plant planted in the fall, seeds that have been removed from the red pod covering, cleaned, dried, and refrigerated over the winter, and a whole pod placed in a flower bed in the fall. The only version that didn’t produce plants were the cleaned and dried seeds planted in the fall in containers and left outside. 

Now, I’m waiting to get them a little larger, so I can transplant them to the mostly shaded flower bed. 

Training Class Studies Bee Farming

by Kathy Lester

The El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalist training class met at Walker Honey Farm, where owner Clint Walker discussed all the wonderful things about bees. Attendees were able to handle the hive frames, see the queen bees, and observe at least three different colors of pollen carried by the bees. They were dressed appropriately for visiting hives. 

Bee handler Blake explained the manufacturing process.

Then they had some great “retail therapy” at the Walker Honey Farm store.

Cucumbers, Dill, and Surprise Butterflies

by Dorothy Mayer

Last year I had quite a few Eastern Black Swallowtails eating most of my dill. I was okay with that, as almost all of my cucumbers were too bitter to can. The weather got too hot too fast for my cucumbers. So, I was disappointed not to be able to can any pickles last year.

The dill was fine, though, and the beautiful butterflies loved it and laid lots of eggs underneath the leaves. When the caterpillars got big enough, I put them in my butterfly house along with a bunch of dill and watched until they all got into a chrysalis. A few did come out & looked healthy. They flew good so I assumed they were healthy.

However, I had three chrysalis that didn’t look right but, I just left them alone. I figured after numerous freezes that they were all dead in there. (I had my butterfly incubator on the back porch where it’s not heated nor cooled.)

Nope. One by one those butterflies managed to come out, and we got to watch them fly away, which was just super fun and amazing. I plan to plant a ton of extra dill this year and try that again. I think it’s a great activity for a learning experience for children and adults alike.

So please, don’t put chemicals on your plants, because you will kill “good bugs” with the “bad bugs.” Poison doesn’t discriminate. It kills ALL bugs and possibly birds, too, as birds eat the insects and feed them to their babies.

Happy Spring Everyone.

Immigrants in the Wildscape

by Carolyn Henderson

Immigrants have come to the El Camino Real Wildscape, and no one knows how they arrived. A few bright red Common Poppies and what appears to be some type of Larkspur have produced vivid early
blooms in one bed of the wildscape.

Manager Catherine Johnson assures me that no one planted either of those to her knowledge. Seeds of them could have been in the dirt of other plants bought and planted, or perhaps a bird carried a seed and dropped it off on its way through the area.

The Larkspur is a little puzzling because no one is sure what it really is – not even iNaturalist. When I tried to identify there, it said it was pretty sure it’s a Larkspur, but wasn’t sure which one. It looks most like a Forked Larkspur which is spottily found across the United States, but that one is mostly found in Western Europe. If you know the identification, let me know.

The rooster in the picture showed up because he took his job too seriously at his prior home. I’m told he will be travelling on down the road soon. He is pretty, though.

It was too cold for most bees and butterflies, but a few did crawl around. One red wasp was making a nest on a gardening tool in the decorative mailbox storage. The awning is repaired, and the Malabar Spinach is beginning to grow again.

A few Master Naturalists or those soon to be certified showed up to work on the place. Some pulled up weeds, while another dug up overgrown sages, and planted something else. The sages went home with members to be planted in their gardens. What is in overgrown abundance is Sunflowers. If you want some, they are all over the wildscape.

A week of warm weather should have many things blooming soon.

Here and There

by Catherine Johnson

The last few months have been busy with ice storms, native plant nursery tours and work at our chapter’s Milam  Wildscape.

The tour guides Mandy and Brandon taught us about wholesale plant operations and we were able to view many beautiful Texas native plants.  The interest in using natives in landscaping is increasing and both businesses are expanding. 

Volunteers at our Wildscape have been working to prepare for upcoming educational programs and tours.  Hope to see you there.

Thank you to Gary Johnson for driving us to Native Texas Nursery and to Patricia Coombs for taking pictures at Joss Nursery.